The prestigious art fair begins today and there’s billions of dollars worth of art up for grabs

If you think long and hard about it, Art Basel that kicks off today isn’t about art. It’s an investment avenue where billionaire collectors and family businesses descend to scope and lock down on art that’ll give them handsome returns. Which is why it shouldn’t shock you to find Steve Cohen or Roman Abramovich strolling the aisles of the Messeplatz should you visit this year, as they have in the past. Art Basel is where the one per cent of the one per cent come to do business.

Importantly, the fair that begins today serves as a bellwether for health of the global art industry. And when you consider that there’s a speculated $3.4billion of art up for sale at Art Basel 2017 over the next four days, you’ll agree that the industry is in rude health.

Art Basel 2017 AI Weiwei Iron Tree

The Iron Tree sculpture by artist Ai Weiwei will be displayed at Art Basel 2017

With established galleries and independent emerging artists showcasing their work side-by-side, it’s a hedonistic mix of art from budding artists as well as old-school solids like Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon. Nearly 300 galleries from over 35 countries will participate in this mega show that’s expected to attract more than the 100,000 visitors it did last year.

The highlights of the 2017 fair include ‘Unlimited’, a platform for outsized artwork from artists like Chris Burden and Jenny Holzer, and the ‘Galleries’ section that will feature multi-media artwork including photography, video, sculptures and paintings.

Along the many multi-million dollar artworks that will be exhibited here, some of the most expensive include a $12-million painting of a gun by Andy Warhol at the Mnuchin Gallery booth at the fair.

Mnuchin Gallery Andy Warhol Art Basel 2017

The Mnuchin Gallery will display the Gun by Warhol painting priced at $12million

Spot an undiscovered gem, and you could land a big ROI. A Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $19,000 in 1984 (the artist was a twenty-something back then). Last month, that same painting was sold for $110million. Only the sharpest minds and hawk-eyed art advisors would have predicted that sort of trajectory – and there are plenty of these advisors and artwork to be found at Art Basel.

It is only natural for banks to go where their clients are. Top financial institutions from UBS and Morgan Stanley to Bank of America and Citigroup will have their art advisors and client managers on hand to help with the handholding process for those who solicit their services. When you consider that $13.3billion worth of art was sold at art fairs last year alone, there’s a strong case to be made for wealth managers to show up.

And there’s an even stronger case for you to jet it to Basel.